Good for What Ails You: Music of the Medicine Shows, 1926 - 1937

Good for What Ails You: Music of the Medicine Shows, 1926 - 1937



The American medicine show came into its own shortly after the Civil War with the rise of so-called patent medicines and the almost complete lack of regulations concerning the ingredients that went into them, and any number of noxious tonics, elixirs, and nostrums with trumpeted healing powers were hawked by silver-tongued pitch doctors to the audiences who flocked to see the various acrobats, dancers, fire-eaters, snake handlers, comedians and musicians who entertained at these free extravaganzas. As a cost efficient way of merging entertainment with merchandising (and where manufacturing meant mixing ingredients in a bathtub), these medicine shows successfully traveled the so-called "kerosene circuit" of rural and small town America until the dawn of the 20th century, when the rise of radio and movies, and the passage of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act, combined to render them obsolete. The medicine show blueprint of offering free entertainment to attract audiences and then using intermissions to push products on them has hardly gone away, however, and is still the driving force behind radio and television in the 21st century. The musicians featured in these colorful traveling medicine shows were professionals, at least professional enough to leave their home communities and take to the road, and luckily several of these musicians were still active in the 1920s and early '30s when the fledgling recording industry was just getting off the ground, and numerous commercial 78s by former medicine show entertainers were issued in the prewar era. Two discs' worth of these 78s have been assembled here by Old Hat Records, an independent label out of North Carolina dedicated to the preservation of American vernacular and regional music, and if listening to these tracks isn't exactly like standing out under those kerosene lights, it's the next best thing. Among the gems on Good for What Ails You are the version of "I'll Be Glad When You're Dead, You Rascal, You" by Daddy Stovepipe (Johnny Watson) and Mississippi Sarah (Sarah Watson) called "The Spasm" that opens the set; the bizarre "Beans" by Beans Hambone (James Albert) and El Morrow, a record so odd it is remarkable that it was ever considered for commercial release (a rambling, half-improvised monologue on beans, it rides over a maddening single-string guitar riff that seems always on the edge of breaking down completely); the delightful "Railroadin' Some" by Henry Thomas, which recalls a train trip across Texas and north to Chicago in an impressive litany of towns and train stops, and Jim Jackson's 1928 recording of "I Heard the Voice of a Porkchop," a surreal parody of the Scottish hymn "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say." Mixed in are an engaging assortment of blues, rags, re-formatted minstrel tunes, jug and string band pieces that continually surprise and delight. Old Hat is to be commended for the obvious care in which this collection is assembled, and fans of Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music may well find that this one is even wilder.

Product Details

Release Date: 10/04/2005
Label: Old Hat Ent.
UPC: 0670725100523
catalogNumber: 1005

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Jim Jackson   Guitar,Vocals
Blind Willie McTell   Guitar,Vocals
Frank Stokes   Guitar,Vocals
Henry Thomas   Guitar,Vocals,Reed Pipes
Uncle Dave Macon   Banjo,Vocals
Cal Smith   Banjo
Gid Tanner   Fiddle,Vocals
Sam Harris   Guitar
Gus Cannon   Banjo,Vocals
Pink Anderson   Guitar,Vocals
J.E. Mainer   Fiddle
Riley Puckett   Guitar,Vocals
Fiddlin' John Carson   Fiddle,Vocals
Snuffy Jenkins   Banjo
Sam McGee   Banjo,Guitar,Vocals
Blind Blake   Guitar
Tom Ashley   Guitar,Vocals
Chris Bouchillon   Vocals
Charlie Burse   Guitar,Vocals
David Crockett   Guitar,Harmonica
Simmie Dooley   Guitar,Vocals
Roy Harvey   Guitar
Frank Hutchison   Guitar,Harmonica,Vocals
Coley Jones   Mandolin,Vocals
Jab Jones   Jug
Noah Lewis   Harmonica
Earl McDonald   Vocals,Jug
Kirk McGee   Fiddle,Vocals
Clayton McMichen   Fiddle,Vocals
Charlie "Bozo" Nickerson   Vocals
Charlie Parker   Guitar,Vocals
Charlie Poole   Banjo,Vocals
Bayless Rose   Guitar
Vol Stevens   Mandolin
Marco Washington   String Bass
Hosea Woods   Guitar,Vocals
Austin Allen   Vocals,Tenor Banjo
Gwen Foster   Guitar,Harmonica,Vocals
Fate Norris   Banjo
Posey Rorer   Fiddle
Ben Covington   Banjo,Harmonica,Vocals
Claude Grant   Guitar,Vocals
Jack Grant   Mandolin,Vocals
Jack Pierce   Fiddle,Vocals
Claude Slagle   Banjo
Lowe Stokes   Fiddle
Doc Walsh   Banjo,Vocals
Lee Allen & His Band   Guitar,Kazoo
Tommie Bradley   Guitar,Vocals
Ralph Miller   Piano
Norman Woodlieff   Guitar
Mack Woolbright   Banjo,Vocals
Prince Albert Hunt's Texas Ramblers   Fiddle,Vocals
Earl Johnson & His Dixie Entertainers   Fiddle,Vocals
George Morris   Guitar,Vocals
Uncle Macon Dave & His Fruit Jar Guzzlers   Choir, Chorus
Walter "Kid" Smith   Vocals
Walter Cole   Vocals
Mazy Todd   Fiddle
Blythe Poteet   Guitar,Vocals
James Robinson   Violin
Lil McClintock   Guitar,Vocals
T.M. Brewer   Vocals
Odell Smith   Fiddle
Uris Bouchillon   Guitar
Charley Bouchillon   Fiddle
James "Beans Hambone" Albert   Guitar,Vocals
Lucien Brown   Alto Saxophone
Benny Calvin   Mandolin
Gene Cobb   Falsetto
Shorty Godwin   Guitar,Vocals
Clarence Greene   Fiddle
Hezekiah Jenkins   Vocals
Sam "Stovepipe No. 1" Jones   Vocals
Emmett Miller   Vocals

Technical Credits

Bengt Olsson   Liner Notes,Author
Richard K. Spottswood   Author
Lee Allen & His Band   Author
Charles Wolfe   Author
Paul Oliver   Author
Nick Tosches   Author
Marshall Wyatt   Producer,Liner Notes,Booklet Design,Song Notes
Chris Frazer Smith   Author
Scott E. Moore   Photo Courtesy
Rosa Lee Carson   Contributor
James A. Hunt   Photo Courtesy
Kinney Rorrer   Author
Louis Causey   Computer Editing
Bobby Gipson   Photo Restoration
Sam "Stovepipe No. 1" Jones   Contributor
David Lynch   Cover Design

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